In this blog post, I am continuing my series on “must watch” videos in Anthropology by sharing 56 “must watch” Linguistic Anthropology videos! For previous blog posts in this series, check out 30 “Must Watch” Videos in Cultural Anthropology: Religion and 28 “Must Watch” Videos in Cultural Anthropology: Gender. This blog post is a modified text version of my newest YouTube video, called “Must Watch Linguistic Anthropology Videos.” Instead of reading this blog post, you can watch the video embedded below or at this link.
Have you ever wanted to watch Anthropology related videos, but doing a quick search doesn’t bring up the results you’re looking for? Or, maybe you don’t have the time to sort through thousands and thousands of results to find a cool documentary? Either way, my series on “must watch” videos in Anthropology is made for you!
In this blog post, I’m sharing 56 “must watch” Linguistic Anthropology videos that all focus on the topic of language! Links to all the videos are embedded in the text below, so be sure to check them out.
Let’s start off by talking about human vs. animal communication. Animals do communicate, but only humans have language. But some people are trying to see if animals can be taught language. In this first video, “Can You Teach Your Dog to Talk?” watch how a dog is learning to communicate with humans by pressing buttons. There is a lot of controversy around dogs like this that are being taught to communicate using buttons. Some people say the dogs are just learning to push random buttons to get attention from their owner, while other people say that the dogs are actually communicating. Watch for yourself and see what you think!
In this second video, called “This Cat’s Favorite Word Is Exactly What You’d Expect,” watch how a cat communicates, also using buttons. Once again, there is controversy over if the cat is actually communicating or not. So watch and decide for yourself!
In this next video, watch how Koko the gorilla uses sign language to communicate. Koko learned to sign over 1,000 words, and she was able to understand a lot more! This video is called, “Watch Koko the Gorilla Use Sign Language in This 1981 Film” and was made by National Geographic. Once again, there is a controversy over primates that have been taught sign language. Some people say they are communicating, while others feel the primates are just mimicking the researchers. Watch the video and see what you think!
Now let’s move on to videos about the sounds of language, which is called phonology. Video 4, called “Phonology: Crash Course Linguistics #10,” is a great introduction to the study of phonology.
To learn more about phonology, check out video #5, called “Weird Phonemes – Pronouncing the World’s Rarest Sounds.” Learn about the unusual sounds that are found in some languages.
Some languages use clicking sounds. You can hear these click languages in the next few videos. In video 6, called “How to Pronounce Zulu Clicks with Sakhile Dube,” you can listen as a native speaker shows you how to make different kinds of clicking sounds in his language.
In video 7, listen as a native speaker talks about the clicks in his language, and says a very difficult sentence involving the clicks. This video is called, “Julia’s Guide Willie Komani Describes the Xhosa ‘Click’ Language” and was created by the BBC.
Next in video #8, called “‘Click Language’ and the San Bushmen People,” watch as the San Bushmen people speak in their clicking language. You can also learn a little about the San culture in this video as well. This video cannot be embedded to sites outside of YouTube, so visit this link to watch the video.
Now let’s move on to languages that involve whistling. These are called whistled languages. Whistle languages are found in various parts of the world, including Myanmar, Mexico, Turkey, the Canary Islands, the French Pyrenees, Ethiopia, Cameroon, and New Guinea. These languages tend to be found in areas where people are isolated from each other throughout the day. For example, people may be isolated from each other when they are hunting, herding, or taking part in hill agriculture. Also, whistle languages tend to be found in certain environmental conditions, such as areas with mountains or dense vegetation. Why is this? Well, because people in these types of environments can’t hear each other very well when they talk or even shout. But, they can hear whistles. So, whistling is an adaptation for communicating in those types of environments.
In video #9, called “Sylbo, The Last Speakers of the Lost Whistling Language,” listen to a whistled language found in the Spanish Canary Islands. Watch as young children in school learn how to communicate in the whistled language.
In video #10, listen to another whistled language, this time from the mountains of Turkey. This video is called, “This Turkish Language Isn’t Spoken, It’s Whistled.”
Now, let’s move on to tonal languages. In some languages, the pitch of a sound in a word can make a difference in the meaning of the word. So, this means that the same word said with different pitches makes other words.
In video #11, called “Sing Like You Mean It! – the Linguistics of Tonal Languages,” learn about the linguistics of tonal languages, like Mandarin Chinese.
So now you have learned a little bit about the sounds of language. But have you ever heard another language and tried to identify what it was? In video 12, watch as two Americans try to identify European languages. This video is called, “Can Americans Identify These European Languages?” Can you do better than these two Americans? Watch the video and find out!
If you are reading this blog post, you probably speak English. But did you ever wonder what English sounds like to people who don’t speak it? Find out in video 13, called “What English Sounds Like to Non-Speakers.”
Now let’s move on to the words of language, which is called morphology. In video 14, called “Morphology: Crash Course Linguistics #2,” learn about morphology, including what counts as a word, and what a morpheme is.
Now that you know a little about the words of language, let’s move on to the study of sentences, which is called syntax. In video 15, called, “Syntax – Morphosyntax: Crash Course Linguistics #3,” you can learn about syntax and how sentences are made out of smaller building blocks.
Then in video 16, called “Syntax – Trees: Crash Course Linguistics #4,” you can learn more about syntax, and how to create tree structure diagrams of sentences.
Now that you know a little about the structure of language, learn about different kinds of structures from languages around the world. In video 17, called “Features English is Missing – But Most Other Languages Have,” learn about features English doesn’t have, yet other languages do have.
Then, in video 18, called “What English Does – But Most Languages Can’t,” you can learn about features the English language has, but other languages don’t.
Now let’s move on to the topic of semantics, which is the study of the meanings of words and sentences. In video 19, called “Semantics: Crash Course Linguistics #5,” you can learn about semantics and semantic relationships between words.
Next is the topic of pragmatics, which has to do with the context of language. In video 20, called “Pragmatics: Crash Course Linguistics #6,” you can learn about context in language, including how to be polite.
On to the next topic in language, which is grammar. In video 21, called “Does Grammar Matter?” you can learn about grammar and the two perspectives on this topic.
Now let’s take a look at written language. In video 22, called “Thoth’s Pill – an Animated History of Writing,” you can watch an entertaining animated explanation of the history of writing starting from pictographs and evolving to systems of writing like those we know today.
In the next video, video 23, you can view a timeline and globe showing the development of writing in different places in the world. This short video is called, “How The World’s First Written Languages Spread,” and was made by Science Insider.
To learn even more about writing, check out video 24, called “Writing Systems: Crash Course Linguistics #16.” In this video, you will learn about writing systems, including the components that make up writing systems and more.
Now, let’s take a step back and look at language in general. Have you ever wondered what all languages have in common? Check out video 25, called “What Do All Languages Have in Common?” where you will learn about Noam Chomsky’s theory of universal grammar.
If you have watched Star Trek, Game of Thrones, or the movies Avatar and Lord of the Rings, you may have wondered if the languages in these fictional worlds are real languages. Find out in video 26, called “Are Elvish, Klingon, Dothraki, and Na’vi Real Languages?“
But how did language actually begin? Learn about current thinking on this topic in video 27, called “How Language Began.” Learn about Homo erectus, an ancient human, and find out if they may have had language.
You may not realize this, but all languages change over time. The subfield of Historical Linguistics studies this process of language change, along with other topics. You can learn about Historical Linguistics and language change in video 28, called “Language Change and Historical Linguistics: Crash Course Linguistics #13.”
Another topic that Historical Linguistics studies is language families. Most languages are related to each other. For example, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Romanian are related, and they all developed from Latin. Latin is the protolanguage for these languages, meaning it was the parent language that the rest evolved from. A language family is a group of languages that all descended from one ancestral language. There are 142 different language families all around the world, but there are 6 major language families. In video 29, called “How Languages Evolve,” you can learn about these language families.
Historical Linguistics also studies language variation, which includes things like dialects, which are varieties of a language. You can learn about language variation in video 30, called “World Languages: Crash Course Linguistics #14.” Find out how languages are defined, and learn about dialects.
To learn more about dialects, check out video 31, called “What Makes a Language… A Language?” Learn how politics are involved in determining the difference between a language and a dialect.
Also check out video 32, called “Does Everyone Speak In A Dialect?” In this video, you can learn more about dialects, along with the differences between accents and dialects.
Video #33 and #34
Now in the next two videos, you can learn about the different accents in the United States. Video 33 is part one of this series, and is called “Accent Expert Gives a Tour of U.S. Accents.” Video 34 is part two of this series.
Now let’s move on and learn about what happens when languages come into contact. When people who speak different languages come into contact with each other, pidgins and creoles can be formed. To find out what these are, check out video 35, called “What are Creoles and Pidgins? And What’s the Difference?“
Did you know that some people think that language shapes the way people think? Check out video 36, called “How Language Shapes the Way We Think” and learn about some examples. For example, learn how an aboriginal community in Australia uses cardinal directions instead of the concepts of “left” and “right.”
Now, let’s move on to the subfield of Sociolinguistics, which is the study of language in a social context. For example, Sociolinguistics looks at language and gender, language and social class, and language and ethnicity. In video 37, called “Sociolinguistics: Crash Course Linguistics #7,” you can learn about Sociolinguistics, including language and education, class, gender, and ethnicity.
Now I’d like to share two videos about something called code-switching. Code-switching is when you switch back and forth between languages when you are speaking. For example, in the United States, some people who know both Spanish and English will say sentences that contain both Spanish and English words. This is an example of code-switching.
Another type of code-switching is when you talk differently based on who you are talking to. In video 38, called “What Is Code Switching?” listen as a man changes his style of talking based on the situation and who he is talking to.
The next video, video 39, called “What Is Code-Switching? Between The Lines.” This video focuses on code-switching among African-Americans and the implications of not code-switching for this community.
Now let’s move on to nonverbal communication. You might think that nodding your head to say “yes” or shaking your head from side to side to say “no” is something everyone does. But different cultures have different types of nonverbal communication. In video 40, called “Gestures Around the World,” learn about some types of nonverbal communication in other cultures.
So now you have learned a lot about language. But did you ever wonder how it works? How we can understand language? Check out video 41, called “How Do Our Brains Process Speech?” to find out!
Want to learn more about language and the brain? Watch video 42, called “Psycholinguistics: Crash Course Linguistics #11.” Learn about psycholinguistics, which is the study of language and the brain. Find out what parts of the brain handle language, what happens when you can’t think of a word and more.
But what happens to language when there is a problem in the brain, due to injury or disease? Find out in video 43, called “Aphasia: The Disorder That Makes You Lose Your Words.”
Now let’s move on to the topic of language acquisition, which is learning language. First language acquisition is when babies learn their first language. Second language acquisition is when people learn a second language. You can learn about both types of language acquisition in video 44, called “Language Acquisition: Crash Course Linguistics #12.”
Are you curious about how exactly babies learn their first language? Check out video 45, called “The Linguistic Genius of Babies,” to learn what science has taught us about this topic, through lab experiments and brain scans.
Have you ever tried to learn a new language? Many people find the process difficult. In video 46, called “Why We Struggle Learning Languages,” learn about a novel strategy for learning a new language.
Now let’s move on to a new topic–language death. Did you know that languages can die? When there are no more speakers of a language, the language dies. If there are only a limited amount of people who speak the language, the language is considered endangered. In the next two videos, you can learn about this process of language death. In video 47, called “Why Do Languages Die?” find out about languages that are endangered and at risk of dying. You can also learn about why languages go extinct.
Next is video 48, called “Language Death: How Do Languages Die?” In this video, you can learn how languages die, and the different types of language death.
Now, let’s talk about language revitalization. This is when people attempt to stop the decline of a language, usually by increasing the number of speakers of that language. In video 49, called “Dying Languages,” watch as a team of people from the Endangered Voices Project document endangered languages around the world.
Video 50 is called “Saving Languages from Extinction.” In this video, you can learn about Wikitongues, which is a project that is creating a video archive of endangered languages around the world.
In video 51, called “Endangered Languages: Why It Matters,” you can learn about the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme at a university in London. This program documents endangered languages through audio and video recordings, and places them in an archive.
Then, in video 52, called “Reviving Gaelic Language,” watch as young people in Ireland try to revitalize the Irish language by translating popular songs into Irish. They even create music videos and upload them to YouTube.
Next is video 53, called “The Fight to Save the Dying Languages of Alaska.” In this video, learn about the 20 indigenous languages in Alaska, and efforts to preserve these languages. You can even listen as an elder describes what it was like when his native language was taken away from him.
Video 54 is called, “Native American Culture – Language: The Key to Everything.” Watch as a young Native American man describes his journey of reclaiming his language.
Now, in video 55, called “How to Bring a Language to Life,” learn how the indigenous Māori language was in decline, and later was revitalized.
Finally, video 56 is called “Combating the Decline of African Languages.” In this video, you can learn about endangered and extinct languages in Africa, and how stories can be used to revive these languages.
I hope you enjoyed this list of “must watch” Linguistic Anthropology videos! If you enjoyed the video version of this blog post, be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel (link is here) so you can get updates each time I post a new video. You can also view my social media posts using this hashtag: #ANTH4U.
Want to learn more about Linguistic Anthropology? Check out the well-known Anthropology blog, “Sapiens,” and read the articles under the “Language” section at this link.
Thanks for reading!